For the second consecutive Olympic Games, South Africa will have no wrestling representation in Rio de Janeiro later this year.
That’s after Martin Erasmus was beaten at the qualifying event in Istanbul, Turkey at the weekend.
The Brakpan grappler needed to win gold or silver in his 86-97kg division at the qualifying tournament.
But he went down to Latvia’s Imants Lagodskis in his opening bout, thus ending SA’s chances of making the Games. The last time SA wrestling had a competitor at Olympic level was Pretoria’s Heinrich Barnes at the 2008 Games in Beijing, China.
Says national coach Nico Coetzee, who travelled to Turkey with Erasmus, told Road to Rio 2016: ‘Imants is 30 years old and a very experienced wrestler.
‘Martin opened the scoring and was looking to set the pace. But the experience of the Latvian worked to his advantage and eventually he won the match by technical superiority.
‘But I’m sure that Martin’s learnt a lot from this tournament and we’ll see his true potential over the next couple of years. I’m extremely proud of him and looking back at his performances over the last two years, proves his ability and talent.’
But Coetzee is confident that the wrestling talent in SA will rise to the top. ‘The wrestlers that were trying to get to Rio are all very young and in four years will be in a much better position to qualify. We’re also confident that the Continental tournament (Oceania) will be part of the qualification process which will give us a good opportunity to qualify.’
Coetzee said of the unassuming East Rand athlete: ‘He’s very disappointed in the result but he understands that it’s all part of a process and that this experience and more exposure to this level plays a big role.
‘He knows how much hard work it will take but he hates to disappoint anyone. Having said that he’s got a very positive attitude and will tackle the next qualifying cycle with determination.’
– See more at: http://www.sascoc.co.za/2016/05/12/erasmus-eliminated-at-olympic-qualifier-in-turkey/#sthash.eb1OIMQB.dpuf